Robert Downey Jr. is ready to communicate with animals. Universal Pictures won an auction for The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, with Robert Downey Jr playing the title character and Stephen Gaghan directing and rewriting a Tom Shepherd script based on the 1920s children’s books by Hugh Lofting.
A package for a branded family event film starring Downey — who has propelled two big franchises with his Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes characters — doesn’t come cheap. Most studios don’t play in the first dollar gross arena anymore, but this was the exception, a throwback auction where the ask was a first dollar gross outlay around 25%, on a film that will carry an event film budget possibly north of $160 million. The deal makers at CAA –which reps Downey and Gaghan and shopped the deal — chose a good weekend to go market with a potential global family franchise, as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was breaking records and demonstrating what happens when a family film catches the global attention. The intention is to start production on Dolittle early next year, once Downey has completed back-to-back installments of The Avengers.
Gaghan is new to family film territory and most recently directed the Matthew McConaughey-starrer Gold and helmed Syriana. He won an Oscar for scripting the Steven Soderbergh-directed Traffic so he definitely has a diverse pedigree and could be very good for this project.